Nature lovers flocking to restored blanket bog
The restoration of a blanket bog near Barnesmore Gap outside Ballybofey is proving to be a popular attraction among nature lovers.
Croaghonagh Bog comprises 33 hectares of blanket bog close to Lough Mourne in the Barnesmore Gap, approximately eight kilometres from Ballybofey.
The bog is one of just 16 sites around the country which Coillte are restoring as part of an important habitat restoration project.
The site lies within the Croaghonagh Bog Special Area of Conservation which supports some of the best examples of wet lowland blanket bog in the county.
The project, which is jointly funded by Coillte and the EU, is a four-year scheme, the primary aim of which is to achieve restoration of blanket bog habitat.
According to Ms Caroline White of Coillte in Sligo, the main restoration measures employed are the removal of conifers and the blocking of any existing drains in order to raise water levels within the bog.
"The idea of the blocked drains is to increase water levels which in turn will encourage native vegetation to return to the bog," Ms White explained.
"The blanket bog is critical for wildlife, flora and fauna and even cranberries which are used for cranberry sauce can be found there.
"The bogs are also home to dragonflies and many different kinds of birds and certain types of geese only survive in these habitats so it is vitally important to protect them," she said.
Ms White added that Croaghonagh was selected as a demonstration site to promote the work which is being done under the project. A boardwalk has also been constructed so visitors can keep their feet dry.
"Croaghonagh is one of these demonstration sites, which are the focus of a public awareness programme, the aim of which is to encourage local communities to benefit from the project by visiting and enjoying the bogs and wildlife.
"Many groups to date have visited this site to see at first hand the work being done. A boardwalk and interpretative display sign have been erected and have been used extensively," she said.
This year alone the site was visited by groups from all over Ireland, North and South, and Scotland.
The quality of water in streams which flow out of felled areas is monitored at a number of locations. Although the rehabilitation of active blanket bog habitat may take decades to achieve at some of the sites, it is anticipated that by the end of this project the regeneration of blanket bog vegetation will be well progressed.
"An important aspect of this project is that it will provide valuable information regarding the most appropriate and cost-effective bog restoration techniques. It is hoped that this information will be of value to any future bog restoration programmes in the country," concluded Ms White.
Anyone interested in visiting the site can contact Ms White by email at caroline.white @coillte.ie or by telephone on 071 91 62663.